UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State junior Oluwasanmi “Victor” Ariyo was hooked on music from the time he was in the second grade. He played the viola and the drums in elementary school. By the time he started attending Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, he had already started rapping and songwriting.
“The music on the radio sounded good, but I didn’t see that a lot of it had a message behind it,” Ariyo said. “I thought I could add my two cents there.”
Several years later, Ariyo has developed his own message and his own sound, and both are featured on his debut mixtape, “Common $ense,” which he released in August. The biomedical engineering student, whose artist handle is “Sanmi,” is balancing a full schedule of college courses and several extracurricular activities with the process of producing — and now marketing — his own music, primarily through online channels.
Ariyo, who is not selling the mixtape but merely looking to grow his audience, set out to compile a 20-track list, but whittled that to 15 and then nine tracks, weeding out songs that he didn’t think were “up to par.” He took advantage of the feedback that came from being around a large audience of his peers, especially during the portions of summer when he wasn’t in class or participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Illinois.
“When I’m writing down rhymes and making music, everything seems better and starts making sense to me,” he said.
Since recording his first song, “Big Dreams,” in his home using a “dollar-store mic,” Ariyo has honed his songwriting abilities and learned how to shape and sharpen his sound and add samplings. He has also collaborated with other artists, as evidenced in multiple songs on the track.
Ariyo is part of Kristina Neely’s force and cognition lab, a corporate liaison for the National Society of Black Engineers, and a member of the Millennium Scholars Program and the Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA), which has played a key role in shaping his ambitions.
“Students in the Academy have inspired me because I see them doing all these amazing things,” Ariyo said. “We saw and spoke to (PLA) alumni that are already doing great things. PLA has inspired me to be different because it has shown me that you shouldn’t be afraid to try different things. That’s what I do in my music.”
Ariyo isn’t quite sure which of those different things will command most of his attention following college. He is considering pursuing a doctorate in the engineering field, seeking a job in the music industry or trying to break into that industry as an artist. If he does so, he will make sure to do so with a message.
“I’m passionate about music, passionate about helping others,” he said. “I’m passionate about how my actions will have an impact on other people.”